Cane Toads

Exclusion Fencing for Your Yard

Just in case you haven't read our toad disposal page first, we need to point out here that the only toads that you should be trying to exclude are introduced cane/marine toads (Bufo marinus). This page is basically for Australians and a few other locations where Bufo marinus has been introduced and become a pest. Other species of toads should not be disposed of or excluded. If you are not sure about what toads you have in your area, you can contact your local parks service, Fish and Wildlife, or other environmental authority.

There is no magic potion to repel cane toads and they are an amphibian so they are around the same types of places as frogs and looking to satisfy the same neccessities (food, water, shelter, breeding). So any kind of control or disposal is really a matter of manually doing something specific that is targeted towards the toad. This is much easier in the suburbs than it would be for a cattle station or outback expanse.

It is possible to fence out toads and create an exclusion zone. This is an approach you could use if you wanted to keep toads out of a pond or to have a dog run area where your pets could not possibly encounter toads. You might use this method to keep toads out of the entire back yard or, if you have the finances, you could fence off your entire property. The area to be included in the exclusion zone is up to you. There are some design complications however when major access points need to breach the zone's border such as driving a car into the driveway.

The fence needs to be at least 60cm (2 feet) high above ground level, have straight, vertical (or outward tilting) walls; and extend below ground level at least 15cm (6 inches). The choice of materials depends on the size of your wallet but there should be no gaps in the material. For example, a wooden paling fence is not a good choice because the bit that needs to go underground will rot and, if the spaces between the palings is a mere 4mm wide, juveniles toads will still get in. However, if you have the money, you could make the bottom of the fence besser bricks with the first layer placed below ground and three more layers above ground level. Above that, you could put paling, metal tubing, wrought iron - anything you want. Most people, however, are not 'flash with cash' and need to find cheaper fencing materials. If the primary reason for the fence is to keep out toads, then shade cloth and star pickets are sufficient!

Such a fence would be installed as follows:

Select the area you are going to be fencing off and mark the path of the fence using whatever means you chose (sprinkling a line of powder or gypsum, using little stakes or tent pegs and running string between them, etc.)
Dig a trench 6 inches deep under the entire fence line
Hammer in the star pickets into the bottom of the trench - the distance is up to you but if they are more than 1.6 metres (6 feet) apart, this will reduce the strength of your fence
Attach the shade cloth to each picket starting from the last picket and moving to the next in order, making sure to stretch the shade cloth so that it is pulled tight between each picket; the bottom of the cloth should drape neatly down into the bottom of the trench
If your fence line is circular (in other words, the beginning of the fence line meets up with the end of the fence line), be sure there are no gaps by overlapping the shade cloth at least six inches; you can then use fishing line to sew the two pieces of cloth together; for a fence which meets up with a wall, you'll need to examine how you want to attach the shade cloth to the wall (renters need to check with their agents/homeowners first as modifications to the wall might be considered damage which you'll have to fix before moving out) but whatever means is used, there should be no gaps at all or else the toads will get in at that spot
Fill back the soil on both sides of the shade cloth so that the trench is filled and even with the soil level
If you want to screen the outside of your new exclusion zone with plants, use something that grows in the ground (not in pots) and preferably with vertical stems (like heliconias, gingers, spider lilies, etc.). Do not put pot plants, rocks, steps, short statues or anything else on the outside wall as toads will easily use these items as steps to get over the top of the wall.

If you already have a perimeter fence which surrounds your property, you can use this as your base to make the entire property off limit to toads. A wooden paling fence will be the easiest to use as you can simply staple the shade cloth to the inside of the fence (you still need to dig your trench below the fence line, extend the shade cloth at least six inches down and fill back). A tubular fence or a chain link fence can still have the shade cloth attached but plastic fasteners would be used instead of staples. (Hardware shops now have those plastic ties you just loop through and pull - they're cheap, last a long time and can simply be cut if you move and want to dismantle your fence to take with you.)

Flyscreen might be a less visually distracting material to use instead of shade cloth but this is not as durable and will not last for very long, especially if you are in an area of cyclones or freak violent storms (like Brisbane and Sydney) or if you have dogs. However, with the example of the perimetre paling fence above, flyscreen would be acceptable as it is merely closing the gaps in an existing strong fence.

The tricky bit is when you need to gain frequent access to the area inside a self-enclosed exclusion zone. For example, many people use such fencing to protect an in-ground pond. If you're tall, you will most likely step over the 60cm wall with ease but not everybody is tall. If you want to keep a set of stairs permanently at the fence line, use above-ground pool stairs as these are not substantial enough for toads to navigate up and they have steps on both sides. Otherwise, you can keep something to step on permanently inside the exclusion zone and just wheel over something to the outside wall and pull it away again before you leave.

If your zone includes the driveway, you might need to think about excluding the driveway by running the fence line up both sides. Be sure to check under the garage door to make sure it is flush to the ground or you can attach one of those rubber guards along the bottom. You can keep the garage door open during the day but be sure it has been closed before sunset.

Acreage properties and stations are just too big unfortunately to consider fencing off large areas in this way, but smaller areas can be chosen on the property such as heavily vegetated areas which are used by wildlife and dams. Open dams in particular will become mass production factories for toads as they like the warm, still water. If you normally allow livestock to access dams at their leisure, you might put in the exclusion fencing around the dams to stop the toads breeding in them and just pump the water to a trough that is at least 60cm deep outside the exclusion fence.

If you have any other ideas about exclusion zones or fencing methods, please let us know!

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